Mechanical Engineering undergraduate student Robert Karol, who is also minoring in Aerospace and Control and Dynamical Systems, was the finalist for the 2012 Friends of Caltech Libraries Senior Thesis Prize. His thesis is entitled “Peak Seeking Controller for Real Time Mobile Satellite Tracking” and was written under the direction of Professor Richard Murray and Mechanical Engineering alumnus Gunnar Ristroph (BS '06) of IJK Controls.
Through the course of his senior thesis, Karol was designing a new algorithm for tracking satellites. Most gimbaled antennas use a method called conical scanning which involves nutating the antenna around the best estimate of where the satellite is. By comparing the received signal, to the motion of the antenna, the estimate of the satellites position can be refined. He took the previous method, and improved upon it by developing a new estimator which allows for faster tracking capabilities, and does not require an additional scanning motion, but rather uses noise inherent in the system to track to the origin. [Library Press Release]